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The Foundations 

of the 

Textile Industry in York County 

An address delivered by Mr. Charles Klager 
before the York Pioneer eS Historical Society 
In Toronto on Wednesday, January 28th, 1948. 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 

The Foundations 

of the 

Textile Industry in York County 

An address delivered by Mr. Charles Klager 
before the York Pioneer & Historical Society 
in Toronto on Wednesday, January 28th, 1948. 

The BEGINNING of the textile industry in Upper 
Canada dates from the arrival of the first pioneer settlers who, 
of necessity, had to provide for themselves the bare essentials 
for survival — shelter, food and clothing. In Lower Canada there 
already existed a thriving home textile industry which had been 
carried on from the earliest days of the French Regime. The 
manufacture of textiles in England, and, to a lesser extent, in 
the United States, had been revolutionized in more recent years 
but each new settler in Upper Canada had to depend on his own 
resources and the spinning wheel and the loom were standard 
pieces of household equipment. 

The development of the textile industry in the early days 
of Upper Canada and York County gives some measure of the 
progress made in each pioneer settlement. The sawmill and the 
grist mill were soon followed by carding and fulling mills which 
relieved the pioneer housewife of several toilsome and time- 
consuming tasks. The custom weaver took over another step in 
the manufacture of textiles and was succeeded in turn by the 
woollen mill which carried on a number of operations, including 
spinning. Later, knitting mills were established. This develop- 
ment, which laid "The Foundations of the Textile Industry in 
York County", is our subject this evening and on it is based the 
Primary Textile Industry as it exists today. 

1 MIGHT explain that there are two main branches 
of the textile industry — the Primary Textiles Industry, with 
which we are chiefly concerned in this paper, and the Secondary 
Textiles Industry, otherwise known as the "cutters up" and the 
"needle trades". 

The Primary Textiles Industry processes the natural textile 
fibres such as wool, cotton, silk, flax and jute and produces other 
fibres such as rayon and nylon. These fibres are spun into yarns 
and the yarns are woven into cloth or knitted into hosiery and 

other articles of clothing. Some products of the Primary Textiles 
Industry are finished ready for distribution to the final consumer 
while some are further manufactured into clothing by the Second- 
ary Textiles Industry. 

There are today several branches of the Primary Textiles 
Industry and these include; the wool yarn and cloth industry; 
the knit goods industry; the cotton industry; the synthetic 
fibre industry ; dyeing, bleaching and finishing ; the narrow fabric 
industry; the carpet and rug industry; plush, velvet and up- 
holstery; cordage and rope manufacture and felt manufacture. 
Some of these groups carry on manufacturing operations which 
are similar to those in use by other groups and some may use 
the product of another. Thus, the hosiery and knitgoods manu- 
facturers use cotton, wool, rayon and nylon while the cotton 
industry is a user of rayon yarn. 

Some Effects of the Industrial Revolution 

1HE EARLY settlement of Upper Canada and the 
gradual development of its first industries were affected and 
influenced by the remarkable changes that had taken place in 
England during the later years of the eighteenth century. That 
was the period, known as the Industrial Revolution, in which a 
series of epoch-making inventions revolutionized existing meth- 
ods of manufacture and introduced a new industrial era. The 
first of these inventions occurred in the textile industry which, 
until that time, had been a home industry using methods which 
had remained largely unchanged for hundreds and even thou- 
sands of years. 

Within the space of one generation James Hargreaves had 
invented the spinning jenny which first operated eight spindles 
and later eighty, Richard Arkwright patented a machine which 
drew out the wool or cotton yarn and in 1779 Samuel Compton 
combined the best features of these inventions to produce the 
mule spinner ; Edward Cartwright perfected the power loom, and 
James Watt developed the steam engine. Other improvements 
were made in the bleaching and printing of cloth and, in the late 
1790's, Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin which could clean 
300 pounds of cotton a day where previously but one pound a 
day was all that could be cleaned by hand. 

These changes had their effect upon Upper Canada. Until 
1830, when the trade reached its peak, the pioneer settler in 
Upper Canada manufactured pot and pearl ash for export to 
Britain where it was used to bleach textiles. Emigrants from the 
British Isles to Canada included many scattered cottagers who 

had lost their livelihood through the invention of power-driven 
textile machinery and farmers whose lands had been turned to 
the grazing of sheep to supply the wool for the increasing de- 
mands of a newly mechanized woollen industry. 

The pioneer settlers of Upper Canada were not unaware of 
the new methods of textile manufacture that had been and were 
being introduced in the British Isles and in the United States. 
It took time, however, before the increasing tide of immigration 
into Upper Canada could provide sufficient raw materials, labour 
and markets necessary for the operation of local textile mills 
using water power and equipped to carry on all of the various 
steps in textile manufacture. 

Processes of Woollen Textile Manufacture 

1 HE EXACT procedures followed by the early pioneers 
in manufacturing textiles for their own use need not be included 
in this paper since they have been covered in some detail by 
Mr. E. C. Guillet in his book "Pioneer Arts and Crafts". The work 
followed an age-old sequence, first the washing and shearing 
of the sheep in early Spring and the picking and sorting of the 
matted greasy wool. Then followed the carding of the wool to 
straighten the fibres. At first, hand cards were used but this 
was a slow, dirty and arduous work that was soon taken over 
by the local carding mill which did the work for two to three 
pence per pound. 

The carded wool was then ready for spinning into yarn on 
the spinning wheel which was in most pioneer homes. Yarn for 
knitting was spun once while the heavier yarns required for 
weaving were spun twice and the yarn was then wound into 
skeins on a reel. The yarn might be dyed before weaving or the 
woven cloth might be dyed in the piece but in either case the 
wool had to be scoured to remove the grease. 

The first dyes were home-made and the yarn or cloth was 
boiled in vessels of iron, brass or tin and the colour was usually 
set with alum. From the neighbouring forests and fields came 
the dye materials to produce gray, bright blue, red, yellow and 
brown. The work of dyeing was unpleasant and the results were 
not always uniform so that the skilled dyer soon found a place 
among the artisans of the more populated districts. 

The weaving of flannel and woollen cloth required special 
equipment and skill which were not possessed by every pioneer 
and the more skillful found it profitable to combine weaving 
with farming. Also, as the tide of immigration continued, skilled 
home weavers from Scotland and England arrived in Canada and 

custom weaving became more common with the weaver accepting 
in payment part of the wool received. As in carding, the fulling 
of the woven cloth was left to the fulling mill at a very early 
date. This process is necessary to shrink the cloth and tighten 
the weave and requires soaking the cloth in water and working 
it thoroughly. 

Most of the work of carding, spinning, weaving and fulling 
fell upon the housewife who also had many other responsibilities 
on the pioneer farm. This was particularly true of the few years 
when the first acres were being cleared, when crops were small 
and, for lack of money or even farm products for barter, the 
pioneers had to depend very largely upon their own resources. 
It was not long, however, before small carding and fulling mills 
were established and the pioneer housewife was not reluctant 
to relinquish some of her chores. 

The custom weaver also freed the housewife from another 
step in the manufacture of textiles in the home but it was not 
until the 1830's and 1840's that the first woollen mills intro- 
duced the factory system of woollen manufacture into Upper 
Canada. Spinning in the home remained a common practice for 
many years but was succeeded by the more efficient and pro- 
ductive mechanical equipment which was required to maintain 
a sufficient supply of yarn for the increasing number of woollen 

Drygoods Sold in a Pioneer General Store 

1 T WOULD be a mistake to assume that any but the 
more remote pioneers, clearing their first acres on the new 
frontier and isolated by poor roads, were entirely dependent upon 
the textile products of their own spinning wheel and loom. York 
was a garrison town, the capital of Upper Canada, and many of 
its citizens were accustomed to the best. The mercantile estab- 
lishments of Montreal were stocked to supply a wide variety of 
needs and transportation by water along Lake Ontario was not 
difficult nor too expensive. 

York had substantial wholesale and retail drygoods estab- 
lishments of its own and their inventories were certainly not 
less varied than that of Reuben Bedell who operated a general 
store in Adolphustown on the Bay of Quinte. In 1797, Bedell 
bought from Benjamin Seymour, of Fredericksburg, goods which 
had a wholesale value of £866 of which drygoods accounted for 
51 per cent and hats and shoes another 11 per cent. For these 
he paid in products of the farm and the forest which included 
pearl ash and mutton but no wool. 

The list of drygoods which Bedell and Seymour handled 
shows the variety of textiles available, and presumably in de- 
mand, in the general stores at that time. The list includes: 

Green and blue baize, buckram ; breeches stuff ; bed ticking ; 
calico; cambric; blue striped cotton; brown coating; check; 
chintz; black callimance; curtain check; corduroy; dowlas 
(a strong, coarse linen cloth) ; green and pink durant; white 
and green flannel ; olive fustian ; green gauze ; white gurrot, 
brown Holland; Jean; blue jersey; linen (fine, Irish and 
coarse) ; black mode ; sprigged and coarse muslin ; muslinet ; 
osnaburgs (a coarse linen made of flax and tow) ; satinett; 
Russian, Scots and flax sheeting ; shirting ; thickset ; various 
cloths designated fine, olive, drab, gray, blue, scarlet, and 
smock cloth ; various ribbons including satin, straw-coloured, 
wide blue, black, white and pink ; narrow tape ; silk ferreting ; 
table cloth ; blankets, three point and small wove ; vest pat- 
tern; silk in skeins; blue twist in sticks; coloured thread 
by the pound and in skeins and white thread by the ounce ; 
coat, vest, shirt and sleeve buttons and shoe binding. 

Included in wearing apparel were cravats, women's worsted 
gloves, hair ribbon, handkerchiefs of silk and cotton, cotton, silk 
and worsted hose, night caps, cotton caps, overalls, shirts, trou- 
sers, etc. No underwear was included. 

Wool cards, which were also in stock, were purchased at 
three shillings and six pence a pair wholesale. 

In York, in the early 1830's, a visitor from France found 
all the usages and manners of England and remarked that 
1 'Fashions which were scarcely indicated at my departure from 
Paris were already strongly indicated in the costumes of the 
elegants of Upper Canada." It would seem unlikely that this 
visitor saw much of the back concessions, but Mrs. Jameson also 
admitted that some of the shop fronts on King Street were quite 

Some Early Mills in York County 

ASSESSMENT records for the Home District in 1803 
show seventeen infant industries of which eight were carding 
and fulling mills. In the older established Township of Markham 
there were five mills of this type run by C. Reesor on the tenth 
concession, J. Hoover, sixth concession, B. Miller, seventh con- 
cession, R. Hosher and one Williams on the second concession. 
A. Miller and J. Scurlet operated carding and fulling mills in the 
Township of York and Eli Graham had one at Newmarket. 

The existence of these carding and fulling mills in York 
County at such an early date is clear indication that the pioneer 
housewife was only too willing to benefit from the services of 
skilled artisans who were better equipped to do the arduous work 
of preparing the wool for the spinning wheel and finish the 
products of the loom. 

Guillet quotes a pioneer of the .Talbot settlement on the 
difficulties of making textiles in the home as follows: 

"In the year 1813, Colonel Talbot sent word to the few 
settlers that he had wool to be let out to make cloth on halves. 
I hired a horse and went and got fifty pounds. Here was forty 
miles travelled. I then hired a horse and took the wool to Port 
Dover and had it carded, for which I paid $6.25, and returned 
home, which made 100 miles more. My wife spun the rolls, and 
I had made a loom for weaving but we had no reed for flannel. 
I then went sixty miles on foot to a reed-maker's, but he had 
none that was suitable, and would not leave his work on the 
farm until I agreed to give him the price of two reeds, $6.50, 
and work for a day in his place; this I did and returned home 
with the reed. My wife wove the cloth, and I took my half to 
Dover to the fulling-mill. When finished I had eighteen yards 
for which I had paid $34.75 and travelled 140 miles on horseback 
and 260 miles on foot, making 400 miles, requiring in all about 
fifteen days' labour." 

Conditions in York County in 1827 

WRITING FROM Markham Mills in 1827, David Gibson 
described conditions then existing in York County to a friend in 
Scotland. The farmers generally kept sheep to supply wool for 
their own clothes although even at that time, custom weaving 
was done at 6d. to 7 1 / 4d. per yard for plain cloth which the weaver 
produced at the rate of eight to ten yards a day. 

Gibson mentions the burning of trees and the sale of ashes 
to the potash work in exchange for whisky, tea or cloth since 
cash was scarce. He considered the following lines, written in 
Scotland, were very applicable to Canada in 1827. 

About 200 years or mare sin sine, 
When fashions werna half sa fine 
Hodden gray undyed or drest 
Was sonsie weed to busk the best 
And lint was beaten wi' the mell 
And Ilk een singled to themsel. 


While Gibson had heard of no mill for dressing flax in Upper 
Canada he reported that "Hodden Gray is a very common dress 
of the farmers in Upper Canada, particularly the Dutch" of which 
there were many who had excellent farms in the Township of 

Gibson gives an interesting side-light on the extent to which 
enterprising business men developed several pioneer industries 
at the same time. Gibson wrote that he occasionally resided in 
the Township of Markham with Mr. Peter Milne, who was a 
cousin of his father. Peter Milne had 200 acres of land, a flour 
mill with two run of stones, a saw mill, a fulling mill and clothing 
works, and kept a store of drygoods and spirituous liquors. He 
had made his money in the United States and had come into 
Canada a few years before. A brother, Alexander Milne who was 
a fuller and dyer, had been in partnership with Peter Milne until 
shortly before. Gibson wrote that Alexander Milne had moved 
to the Township of York where he was putting up a sawmill and 
fulling works of his own. 

Fifty years later, in 1878, an advertisement for Milneford 
Mills, William Milne and Sons, proprietors, announced that the 
firm had been established in 1827 and were manufacturers of 
rolls, yarns, cloths, blankets and flannels. The advertisement 
called the attention of all those who wanted good materials at 
reasonable rates to the stock which was large and complete. Mills 
and office of the company were on Lot 5, Concession 4, East York 
with post office address at Truxford and at that time David A. 
Milne and William A. Milne were listed as substantial land 

It would appear that the enterprising Milne family not only 
started one of the first woollen mills in Upper Canada but oper- 
ated it successfully over a long period of years. A large picture 
of the three-storey mill building and the comfortable residences 
of A. W. Milne and William Milne occupy a full page in the 
Historical Atlas of York County which was published in 1878. 
This was the principal, and possibly the only, centre of woollen 
manufacture on the Don River and it remained in operation until 
1914. Over a period of more than eighty years the Milne woollen 
mills on the Don contributed substantially to the prosperity of 
the community they served as a ready market for the farmers' 
wool, as a source of steady employment and as a producer of 
textile products. 

Beginnings of the Factory System 

The MANUFACTURE of woollen goods on power 
looms started in Canada at about the time of the Rebellion of 
1837 and woollen mills were located on suitable water-power sites. 
Some are still in operation although steam succeeded water 
power and, in turn, has been implemented in recent years by 
hydro-electric power. 

The introduction of the factory system of woollen manufac- 
ture has been attributed to the Barber Brothers, William and 
Robert, who operated a paper and woollen mill in West Flamboro 
for some years. They then moved to Georgetown where they 
purchased a small mill from a man named Comstock who had 
been ostracized for his active sympathy with the rebels. At that 
time, both Peel County and York County were part of the Home 
District so the development of the Barber mill is part of this 

From Georgetown, Barber Brothers moved to Streetsville 
where they acquired a woollen mill which a Mr. Comfort had 
operated before 1837. This mill was enlarged and Barber Broth- 
ers conducted their business on a much broader scale with the 
manufacture of etoffes, tweeds, shirtings, flannels and Kidder- 
minster carpets. The weaving of carpets on power looms appears 
to have had its beginning in this mill some time in the 1840's. By 
1862 this mill had 2,000 spindles, employed 90 hands and pro- 
duced 18,954 yards of cloth in one month. 

For some idea of the extent to which textile machinery had 
supplanted the relatively simple textile tools of the home we 
might refer to a description of Fraser & Crashaw's mill which 
had been established at Cobourg in 1849. Thirteen years later, 
in 1862, this mill employed 100 hands and had 45 looms which 
produced 800 yards of tweed a day. The modern and intricate 
machinery then used in the mill included fearnoughts, scribblers, 
spinning mules, twisters, spoolers, warpers, rotary fulling mills, 
scouring machines, gigs and finishing machinery. The older 
generations then living could well remember when they could 
spin only one thread at a time. 

The first record of the use of aniline dyes in a Canadian 
mill was in Fraser & Crashaw's mill in 1864. 

By 1850, Toronto had a population of over 25,000 and was 
"growing more rapidly than any other town in Canada". In the 
past ten years it had acquired "most of the substantial advan- 
tages of a European city" although its 100 streets were bounded 
by a crescent of green forest. King Street was the main street of 
the town with Yonge St., which extended 30 miles into the 
country, only second in importance. There were large wholesale 


dry goods warehouses located on Yonge St. south of King St., 
and the city had a large number of wholesale and retail dry- 
goods stores and professions and trades of all sorts including 
carpet and fringe weavers, twine and rope manufacturers and 

It has been estimated that there were as many as 43,000 
hand looms in Upper and Lower Canada in the late 1840's and 
in 1851 the production of home-made flannel and cloth totalled 
4,765,000 yards with Upper Canada having the larger production 
of flannel and Lower Canada the larger production of woollen 
cloth. Production of home-made cloth barely kept pace with the 
growth in population in the twenty years from 1851 to 1871 
but, in the latter year, production totalled 7,641,917 yards for 
the four provinces. By 1891, the production of home-made cloth 
and flannel was down to 4,320,838 yards of which slightly over 
half was from Quebec. 

Growth of the Woollen and Knit Goods Industry 

In 1842 THERE were 330 carding and fulling mills 
in Upper Canada or more than three for every four flour mills. 
By 1851, the number of carding and fulling mills had declined 
to 221 but 74 woollen mills were reported in that year and these 
continued to increase in number until in 1891 there were 330 
woollen mills in Ontario. 

Your president, Mr. T. P. Grubbe, has brought to my atten- 
tion some interesting statistics contained in the Home District 
Council Report of 1848. In that year, there were 39 carding and 
fulling mills in the Home District, with an output of 293,362 
pounds, and 14 woollen factories which produced 147,659 yards 
of materials. The report shows production of textile fibres and 
cloth as follows: 

Flax and hemp produced 5,662 lbs. 

Wool _ 314,662 lbs. 

Fulled cloth 67,714 yds. 

Linen or cotton cloth _ _ 4,025 yds. 

Flannel or other cloth 128,094 yds. 

It is difficult to reconcile the figures for personnel employed 
with the number of establishments or production. The report 
shows 11 cloth manufacturers, five fullers, three spinners and 
157 weavers. The latter figure would seem to include custom 
weavers and it is probable that owners of businesses such as 
carding and fulling mills were not included with their employees. 


Efforts to establish a linen industry in Upper Canada were 
never very successful and we are not aware of any notable 
example in York County. The early settlers of Upper Canada 
grew some flax and 166,881 yards of linen were woven on home 
looms in 1842 but the work involved tended to discourage pro- 
duction which declined to 37,055 yards in 1861 and 5,477 yards 
in 1891. Linseed oil and oil cake, however, had a ready market. 

During the Civil War in the United States the scarcity of 
raw cotton caused an increase in the price of linen goods and 
in 1866 Gooderham and Worts of Toronto supplied capital for a 
linen mill at Streetsville, Ont., known as the Streetsville Linen 
Manufacturing Company. This mill was five storeys in height and 
employed 70 to 100 hands for a time on the manufacture of 
double webbed linen for seamless bags. However, with the re- 
duction in the price of cotton following the Civil War, it was 
no longer practical to make linen and the Streetsville enterprise 
was closed. 

The 1860's was a period of great activity in woollen manu- 
facture and it is stated that the consumer was prepared to pay 
more for the domestic product knowing that he got better value 
in cloth made from Canadian wool. At this time, too, the whole- 
saler was content with fewer patterns for which he placed large 
orders whereas later in the 1870' s the wholesaler demanded 
more patterns of which he ordered from one to twelve pieces 
each containing some 60 yards. 

The increase in population and the growth of the woollen 
industry, which depended on home-grown wool, were incentives 
to the farmer to raise more sheep and between 1850 and 1870 
the number of sheep in Ontario increased from 967,168 to 
1,514,914. From that point on there was a decline in Ontario 
flocks and in 1891 the number of sheep was little more 1,000,000. 
Today there are approximately half as many sheep raised in 
Ontario as there were eighty years ago and the woollen industry 
uses both foreign and domestic wools. 

Until 1857, when W. E. Adams started a small factory in 
Belleville with three hand machines, there is no record of the 
knitting industry. In the following year, one Crane started a 
knitting factory at Ancaster with power machines and supplied 
his own yarn with a one-set yarn mill. In 1859, Robert Turnbull 
started to manufacture underwear in Gait and in 1865 circular 
knitting frames were first used in a mill in Toronto by Joseph 
Simpson who founded the firm of Joseph Simpson Sons, Ltd. 
which is still in operation today as a division of the Monarch 
Knitting Co. From that time on there was a steady development 
of this branch of the textile industry and the market which had 
previously been supplied by imported goods was increasingly 
supplied by goods of Canadian manufacture. 


Some Textile Establishments in the 1870's 

1HE CENSUS of 1871 showed 233 wool cloth making 
establishments and ten hosiery mills in Ontario. There were 
also 158 carding and fulling mills in operation. 

In 1870, Reeve Nelson Gorham operated a large woollen 
mill at Newmarket while woollen mills were also owned by Peter 
Summer and Richard Pratt at Weston, by Mjilne and Sons at 
the post village of Don, by Seymour, Stogdill & Co. at Lloydtown, 
by J. W. and C. L. Ford, at Mount Albert, Samuel P. Dennis at 
Schomberg, and Patrick Moore and Hugh O'Neil at Maple Card- 
ing and fulling mills were operated at Richmond Hill by W. H. 
Lawrence, and at Headford by Eyre Bros. Weavers in the county 
included William Withers of Stouffville, Joseph Orr at Wood- 
bridge, John Murray at Aurora, Michael Fitzgibbons at Holland 
Landing and E. C. Morrison at King. At Almira, Lyman Miller 
was a woollen factor and Elijah Miller was dyer, while at Box 
Grove, on the Rouge River, Julius Sutton was a woollen factor. 
At Brockton, on the Dundas Road three miles from Toronto 
market, Arch McGregor operated a rope walk. 

In 1875, J. Mcintosh and Sons established a woollen mill 
at Woodbridge. 

In 1878, the Newmarket Woollen Mills, of which S. A. Rus- 
sell, M.D., was then proprietor, laid claim to have been founded 
as early as 1809. 

The Woollen Industry in the 1880's 

t>Y 1881 THE production of home-made cloth in On- 
tario was on the decline and the output of 1,426,558 yards was 
only equal to three-quarters of a yard per capita as compared 
with more than two yards in Quebec and 4.7 yards in Prince 
Edward Island. While Ontario produced 1,073,197 pounds of 
flax and hemp in that year, or more than half of the total pro- 
duced by all six provinces, the output of homemade linen was 
negligible at 13,641 yards. 

In Toronto, which had a population of 86,415, no home-made 
cloth or linen is reported while in the three Yorks the production 
of home-made cloth was only 18,005 yards of which more than 
half was produced in North York. 

The number of carding and fulling mills in Ontario had 
dropped to 72 by 1881 and none of these were in York County. 
The Census reported 993 establishments making wool cloth within 


the province, and these gave employment to 5,221 men and 
women and had a production valued at $6,077,444. The average 
woollen mill in Ontario at that time employed five people. 

Toronto had five woollen mills in 1881 while East York had 
three, West York had seven and North York had 14. The 
mills in West York and Toronto were the largest and accounted 
for the most substantial employment and the greatest value of 
production. In all, these 29 woollen mills throughout the county 
employed 367 people and had a production valued at over half 
a million dollars. 

At this time Toronto had nine wool dyeing and scouring 
plants and East York had one. These accounted for half of the 
number of plants throughout the province and two-thirds of 
Ontario's total production. Toronto also had one small carpet 
making establishment, two manufacturers of roofing felts and 
two hosiery manufactories of which there were also two in East 
York. In 1882, a factory was started in Toronto for the produc- 
tion of haircloth which was then the fashionable covering for 
upholstered furniture. 

During the 1870's and to an even greater extent during the 
1880's there was an ever-increasing variety in articles manufac- 
tured as well as an increase in the number and size of manufac- 
turing establishments. Various industries were started such as 
clothing factories, corset factories, and factories for making 
blouses, mantle cloaks, shirts, collars and cuffs and other articles 
of ladies' and men's wear. The Canadian market was largely sup- 
plied by these products and some firms also did a large export 
business to the West Indies and other British colonies. 

This was the start of Canada's Secondary Textiles Industry 
as we know it today. In Ontario in 1881 there were 4,661 people 
employed in dressmaking and millinery establishments while an- 
other 8,569 persons were employed by tailors and clothiers. To- 
gether, these Secondary Textiles Industries had a production 
valued at more than $11,000,000. 

In 1881, one person in every five employed in Ontario's 
manufacturing industries was employed in the primary or secon- 
dary manufacture of textiles. 

While the first manufacture of carpets by power loom was 
in the Barber mill at Streetsville, it was not until the 1870's that 
the industry became specialized. With the increasing mechaniza- 
tion of the woollen industry, custom weavers eventually turned 
to making carpets on their hand looms but again more modern 
methods of manufacture replaced the old and by 1885 the rela- 
tively few carpet factories were producing ingrain carpets. Mark- 
ham very nearly had the distinction of turning out the first 
Brussels carpet when a Brussels loom was imported in 1891 but 


this loom was never used and the first Brussels carpets were 
made in Elora in 1895. The first Axminster carpets were made 
in Toronto by the Toronto Carpet Manufacturing Company which 
was founded in 1891 and Toronto has since remained a leading 
centre of carpet and rug manufacture in Canada. 

From the 1790's to the 1880's the foundations of the textile 
industry, in York County as in all Ontario, were well and truly 
laid and the industry of the home became a home-town industry. 
Since then, great advances have been made during the present 
century and the Canadian textile industry is now equipped to 
supply almost all the needs of a much larger population and, in 
addition, has developed export markets for certain lines such as 
full fashioned hosiery, blankets and paper makers' felts. 

In the course of this paper it has not been possible to give 
more than passing reference to some of the men who represented 
the textile industry of their day. Likewise it has not been possible 
to mention more than a few of the early textile mills. In fact, 
the records of many mills appear to have passed out of existence. 
We would like to know more of some of the woollen mills on the 
Humber River such as the old Gamble Woollen Mill near the 
Dundas Road and the grist mill that Thomas Fisher built at 
Millwood and later sold to Thomas Cooper who operated it as a 
woollen mill. 

Members of the York Pioneer & Historical Society may know 
of some of the early textile mills and will run across references 
to others in their researches. I would appreciate receiving any 
material along these lines to add to my notes on the history 
of the textile industry in this County. Also, the Department of 
Textiles at the Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology is study- 
ing and recording examples of early Ontario textiles and how, 
where, and by whom they were manufactured. The time to collect 
such information is now before it is too late. 

The Woollen and Knit Goods Industry Today 

THE MANUFACTURE of primary textiles in York 
County today is very largely centred in Toronto which has more 
than 64 different establishments manufacturing a wide range 
of woollen and knit goods. Elsewhere within the county there are 
primary textile factories in Almira, Willowdale, Woodbridge and 
Mount Dennis. In Toronto, the primary and secondary textile 
industries now employ over 20,000 people and one out of every 
eight persons engaged in Toronto's varied manufacturing in- 
dustries depends on the textile industry for his or her livelihood. 


Toronto is second only to Montreal as a centre for the prim- 
ary and secondary textile industries in Canada. Hamilton, Ont., 
Sherbrooke, Que., Winnipeg, Man., Three Rivers, Que., Cornwall, 
Kitchener, and London, Ont., are also centres of importance. 
But while the secondary textile industry, or cutting up trades, 
tend to establish in the largest cities, the roots of the primary 
textile industry are still close to the small community. More 
than half of the 653 primary textile establishments in Canada 
are located in towns and cities of less than 25,000 population 
and in many of these communities the local textile plant is the 
chief, and in some cases the only, manufacturing industry. 

According to figures just released by the Dominion Bureau 
of Statistics, Canada's 653 primary textile establishments give 
employment to more people, men and women, than are employed 
in any other manufacturing industry. In the total of salaries 
and wages paid, which is over $101,000,000, and in the net value 
of its products, which is over $182,000,000, the Primary Textiles 
Industry also ranks first. 

Since the days of the pioneer settler, the manufacture of 
textiles in Canada has kept pace with the needs of the population. 
It is fortunate that this has been so for throughout the war 
years, 1939-1945, all the textile requirements of Canada's armed 
forces and of the civilian population were supplied by Canada's 
own textile industry. 

As Mr. B. K. Gunn, President of the Canadian Woollen and 
Knit Goods Manufacturers Association said recently: 

"We have every right to take pride in the excellence of our 
products and the important contribution our industry makes 
to the Canadian economy. Our industry is modern and progres- 
sive. For over a hundred years the woollen and the knit goods 
industries have been developing skill and know-how. Some of 
our end-products have world-wide recognition of their excellence. 
Canada's secondary textiles industry, using our products, has 
developed to a point where in both design and quality it has 
achieved international recognition. Go where you will in the world 
today there are no people so well clothed as Canadians wearing 
textiles made for Canadians by Canadians to meet Canadian 
requirements and conditions.'*